Update: It’s a hoax. And I fell for it.
Click here to read about it. You’ve no idea how tempted I was simply to remove, rather than retract, this post. But integrity demands facing my folly like a grownup. To read about the lesson I relearned from this experience, click here.
“Dumb Starbucks” hasn’t
a legal leg to stand on
Much has been made of the coffee shop calling itself “Dumb Starbucks Coffee.” Though [the real] Starbucks has not taken legal action as of this writing, they have made it clear that Dumb cannot use their name and look.
Dumb’s reply? That their store is protected as a form of free speech known as parody.
My reply?* Nonsense.
This is no SNL sketch or Mad cartoon; it is a functioning store, pretty much a clone of the real thing. This is not parody; it is deception. Sure, I think it’s funny, but funny is not a legal defense.
A typical standard for deception is whether a product has a tendency to deceive. As the media have widely reported, numbers of people are unclear as to whether Dumb is a legit Starbucks brand. Dumb even digs its own grave with a nod to the confusion in their FAQs.
Dumb will have to shut down or rebrand and possibly run corrective advertising, none of which will be cheap. Some speculate that the hubbub is part of a long-term publicity strategy. I lean toward thinking that from the start the folks at Dumb were simply being true to their name.
*Not that anyone asked.